Dali, Salvador – (1904 – 1989)

Salvador Dali was a Spanish painter, sculptor, graphic artist, and designer. After passing through phases
of Cubism, Futurism and Metaphysical painting, he joined the Surrealists in 1929 and his talent for self-
publicity rapidly made him the most famous representative of the movement. Throughout his life he
cultivated eccentricity and exhibitionism, claiming that this was the source of his creative energy.

His paintings employed a meticulous academic technique that was contradicted by the unreal `dream’
space he depicted and by the strangely hallucinatory characters of his imagery. He described his pictures
as `hand-painted dream photographs’ and had certain favorite and recurring images, such as the human
figure with half-open drawers protruding from it, burning giraffes, and watches bent and flowing as if made
from melting wax (The Persistence of Memory, MOMA, New York; 1931).

In 1937 Dalí visited Italy and adopted a more traditional style; this together with his political views led
Breton to expel him from the Surrealist ranks. He moved to the USA in 1940 and remained there until
1955. During this time he devoted himself largely to self-publicity; his paintings were often on religious
themes (The Crucifixion of St John of the Cross, Glasgow Art Gallery, 1951), although sexual subjects
and pictures centring on his wife Gala were also continuing preoccupations. In 1955 he returned to Spain
and in old age became a recluse.

Apart from painting, Dalí’s output included sculpture, book illustration, jewellery design, and work
for the theatre. In collaboration with the director Luis Buñuel he also made the first Surrealist films-
–Un chien andalou (1929) and L’Age d’or (1930) —and he contributed a dream sequence to Alfred
Hitchcock’s Spellbound (1945). He also wrote a novel, Hidden Faces (1944) and several volumes of
flamboyant autobiography. Although he is undoubtedly one of the most famous artists of the 20th century,
his status is controversial; many critics consider that he did little if anything of consequence after his
classic Surrealist works of the 1930s. There are museums devoted to Dalí’s work in Figueras, his home
town in Spain, and in St Petersburg in Florida.


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